Basque Country – Pais Vasco – Spain includes three provinces Vizcaya, Gipuzkoa and Alava. In this article we are exploring most beautiful places to visit in Basque Country. Basque Country is in north of Spain, and is located on the Atlantic coast, on Bay of Biscay and has a border in the Pyrenees Mountains.
In this article we are listing top 13 best places to visit in Basque Country Spain. But first some information about this place. The Basque Country (Basque: Euskal Herria; Spanish: País Vasco; French: Pays basque) is the name given to the home of the Basque people. The largest city in Basque Country is Bilbao.
Basque Country is one of the most industrialised areas of Spain, but it has a lot of history and art to discover for every tourist. It exist a mister about the language of Basque Country, it pre dates indo European llanguages, in fact it is the last surviving pre indo European langue in western Europe and its origin is full of debate even now.
Based on the experience of this route through the Basque Country by car, one of the most beautiful regions to see in Spain, we have made a list of what we believe are the 15 essential places to visit in the Basque Country.
1. San Sebastian & La Concha Beach
Whether you call it San Sebastián, Donosti or Donostia it doesn’t matter: the capital of Guipuzcoa is one of the essential stops on any trip to the Basque Country.
Not only for its famous pintxos, the city is a true gem and offers quite a few attractions. San Sebastian offers a huge range of options to the most demanding tourist.
From cultural plans for the whole family, strolling along one of the best urban beaches in Spain. Strolling through buildings that take you back to the beautiful era and a cuisine that does not need much of a letter of introduction.
San Sebastia would not be understood without long walks along this beach, also along the Ondarreta beach, without observing the force of the sea in the Peine del Viento. If you visit Basque Country in summer we suggest to take a trip to San Sebastian because is one of the best places to visit in Basque Country Spain.
2. Valderejo Natural Park and Puron Gorge
An area brimming with life, water and nature that I discovered almost by chance. In fact, my foray into the Valderejo Natural Park arose within my province, Burgos.
I was exploring the Tobalina Valley when I discovered the existence of the Purón Gorge. I didn’t think twice. When I realized I was walking next to a turquoise river and hallucinating with the forests and the scenic beauty of the Valderejo Natural Park.
The Valderejo Natural Park was declared a Natural Park in 1992 and was sandwiched between the limestone walls of the Sierra de Arcena and the Sierra de Bóveda.
3. Salinas de Anana (That’s one of the best places to visit in Basque Country)
The salt flats of the salty valley of Añana have been known since at least the year 822 and they became one of the most important in Spain. But what makes this old salt mine unique, 30 kilometers from Vitoria-Gasteizes, is that given the scarce flat surface available.
The neighbors were building wooden platforms -the eras- of between 12 and 20 meters of surface each, to place the water loaded with salts there. The framework of timbers and platforms is unique in the world.
Until a few years ago an ambitious restoration project was undertaken that remade the platforms and built an interpretation center from where guided tours are organized so that the modern traveler can recreate the history of this fascinating industrial space
4. Bilbao Old Town
Bilbao has managed to leave behind its more industrial and gray past, to become one of the favorite destinations for travelers and one of the most essential cities to visit in the Basque Country.
In addition to entering its emblematic Guggenheim Museum, you cannot stop strolling through the narrow streets its old part known as the Seven Streets, where several of its tourist attractions are concentrated,
Until you reach the Plaza Nueva, full of pintxo bars such as those recommended : Cafe Bar Bilbao, Charly, Sorginzulo and Gure Toki. To complete a visit to this cosmopolitan city, full of character, we recommend you go up to the Mirador de Artxanda and take a walk at sunset along the banks of the Ría crossing one of its 10 bridges.
5. Stairway to heaven San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
In the middle of a marine landscape, rock and wind, stands the small hermitage of San Juan de Gaztelugatxe. It is one of the most beautiful places on the Basque Coast, one of those magical corners that you should not miss.
It is located on an islet that is connected to the mainland by a narrow rocky path, which leads to a staircase that seems to reach up to heaven.
There are no less than 241 steps to climb to access the hermitage, with a steep path.
It was built in the 10th century between the Biscayan towns of Bermeo and Bakio, and is a place revered by men of the sea. The many offerings inside it attest to this, made by all those sailors who have managed to survive a shipwreck.
6. The Urdaibai
Urdaibai is an extraordinarily beautiful and varied natural space, which is why it was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1984. Urdaibai is an extraordinarily beautiful and varied natural space, its heart is the Oka River. It rises on Mount Oiz and turns into an estuary when it reaches Mundaka creating spectacular full marshes of life.
We recommend you see them at different times of the day to appreciate both low and high tide. The osprey, the spoonbill, the bittern are very difficult birds to spot throughout the Iberian Peninsula that you can see there, this environment is a feast for birds. Do not forget to visit the modern Urdaibai Bird Center, there you will receive all the information you need so as not to lose detail.
7. Zenarruza Monastery
Declared a National Monument of the Basque Country, the Zenarruza Monastery, a former collegiate church, is located at the foot of Mount Oiz (1,026 m), a few kilometers from the Biscayan town of Bolibar.
Considered one of the treasures of the territory, it was an important enclave of the Camino de Santiago along the Coast during the Middle Ages and, above all, the Renaissance.
The Zenarruza Monastery can be accessed by the remains of a cobbled road used in the past by the Jacobean pilgrims.
The set of monastic installations includes a church from the 15th century in the Gothic Renaissance style by a beautiful cloister from the middle of the 16th century.
Different dependencies typical of the cloister and community life such as the houses of the abbot, that of the colonists and the refectory.
8. Pasaia (That’s one of the best places to visit in Basque Country)
Victor Hugo was vividly impressed with the moment in which that tight line of colorful houses and piers appeared before his eyes. Between green mountains and an arm of blue sea, meandered following the line of the rugged coastline.
“A small resplendent Eden, where I arrived by chance and without knowing where I was,” the author of Les Miserables wrote about Pasajes de San Juan. Pasaia is located in the province of Gipuzkoa, a few kilometers from San Sebastián,
Pasaia is made up of four population centers: Donibane and San Pedro, towns with a seafaring flavor, which are in clear contrast to Pasai Antxo and Trintxerpe, both with a more urban environment. These four towns are located in rugged and mountainous terrain, between the Ulia and Jaizkibel mountains.
9. The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao (That’s one of the best places to visit in Basque Country)
The reason why Bilbao is a top city culturally is due, in part, to the Guggenheim Museum. And it is that having one of the most famous museums in the world in this city places it with a very large pin on the international scene.
It is a work of the American architect Frank O. Gehry, the Guggenheim Museum has played a fundamental role in the urban revitalization and transformation of the area, as well as becoming the symbol of the city of Bilbao.
The building constitutes a magnificent example of the most avant-garde architecture of the 20th century.
It represents an architectural landmark for its innovative design both in the exterior and in the interior spaces, forming a seductive backdrop for the exhibition of contemporary art. Of course that The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao is one of the best places to visit in Basque Country Spain. The visit can be made both inside and outside the building.
If I have to stay only with a town in the Basque Country, I’ll take Hondarribia. Not only is it one of the most charming towns in the province of Guipúzcoa but because it is also one of the most beautiful towns in Spain.
Hondarribia is located almost on the border with France. It is a quiet and fishing village, full of typical colorful fishermen’s houses and that infinitely smells of the sea.
I recommend you stroll through Hondarribia until you reach the Plaza de Armas, Plaza Guipúzcoa, Calle Mayor, the walled area.
The town is small, but you can read here the best things to see in Hondarribia. You will see that, although it is small, it has a lot to offer you
11. Zumaia & The Basque Coast UNESCO Geopark (One of the best places to visit in Basque Country)
The coast of Basque Country is like a box of surprises. It is a steep, wild coast, with strong waves, with long beaches and rocks that emerge from the water. This is a preview of what you will find in the 175 kilometers of coastline.
The beaches of Zumaia were a real discovery for me. Specifically, Playa de Itzurun is a beach with sharp rocks that is a true paradise for lovers of atypical beaches.
It has also been the scene of a movie in Game of Thrones. Yes, Jon Snow, Khaleesi and Tyrion Lannister walked this beach.
And the Hermitage of San Telmo, almost on the edge of the precipice, appears in the Spanish film “8 Basque surnames. Official website for more information zumaia.eus
12. Sopelana Beaches
In Sopelana, a municipality just 20 minutes by car from Bilbao, you will find a spectacular cliff coastline open to the sea and with four incredible interspersed beaches: Barinatxe, Atxabiribil, Arrietara and Meñakoz.
In addition to enjoying the beauty of the landscape, these beaches are perfect for lovers of surfing and paragliding, for those who practice naturism or simply to take a refreshing dip in the cold waters of the Cantabrian Sea.
The most famous is Barinatxe known as La Salvaje and located among the most beautiful beaches in the Basque Country, although it is worth visiting all four, being easily accessible and having paid parking near the sand. If you visit Basque Country in summer we suggest to take a trip to Sopelana Beaches because is one of the best places to visit in Basque Country Spain.
13. La Rioja Alavesa
A sea of vineyards floods the horizon and invites us to enter the alleys of charming stone villages. La Rioja Alavesa is part of the province of de Alava.
A real dream for lovers of rural getaways. We are in the Rioja Alavesa and here not only does the wine rule (Rioja of course) but even the beautiful towns of Laguardia, Labastida, Elciego.
The historic wineries with the solera of Bodegas Ysio do, Marqués de Riscal, Valdena or Muriel, among others.
The spectacular Hotel Marqués de Riscal by architect Frank Gehry
We are close to the community of La Rioja, specifically to the Region of La Rioja Alta and to towns as emblematic as Haro, Briones, San Vicente de la Sonsierra and a long etcetera.
Best places to visit in Basque Country Spain
- San Sebastian & Playa del Concha
- Valderejo Natural Park and Puron Gorge
- Salinas de Anana
- Stairway to heaven San Juan de Gaztelugatxe
- The Urdaibai
- Zenarruza Monastery
- The Guggenheim Museum Bilbao
- Plaza de Armas, Hondarribia
- Zumaia & The Basque Coast UNESCO Geopark
- Sopelana Beaches
- La Rioja Alavesa